When it comes to quality documents and photos, Canon continues to lead the pack. Printing images over Wi-Fi is slow with the MX860, but if you're looking for a wireless all-in-one that can print, copy, scan, and fax--and would rather have quiet operation than a sleek design--the $199 MX860 is one of your best bets.
Particularly compared to theKodak ESP 7and the HP Officejet 6500, the MX860's design looks dated. For one, it's large, even for an all-in-one printer, at 19.4 x 17.1 x 8.9 inches. Its matte gray exterior is plenty suitable for a small office, but the ESP 7 and Officejet 6500's glossy black finishes will blend in easily in home offices. While the MX860's letter-sized paper tray is tucked discreetly inside the printer, photo- and smaller-sized paper must go in a vertical tray in the back of the printer. While the design itself is functional, it adds to the clunkiness of the MX860's look. However, the SD, MS, and CF Card slots are tucked behind a door on the front side.
The printer's console has a small 2.5-inch LCD with a five-way navigational pad, a number pad (mainly for faxing), stop, color, and black-and-white buttons, and function-specific buttons for copying, faxing, scanning, and accessing a memory card. These buttons are all self-explanatory, though some printers with fewer buttons, such as the Kodak ESP 7, are easier to use.
Setting up the MX860's Wi-Fi connection entailed more steps than, say, theLexmark X7675. We first had to connect the printer to our computer via USB (which you don't have to do with the ESP 7) and click through a series of windows in the onscreen wizard. We also had to drill into a series of menus on the printer itself to verify the WLAN settings. Even the instructions in the accompanying booklet include a convoluted flowchart of what pages you should read, and in what order, depending on what kind of connectivity you're trying to achieve (Ethernet and USB are also options).
Performance and Print Speeds
When it came to printing, we performed several tests, both over a Wi-Fi network and a USB connection (you can also use the bundled Ethernet cable to connect it to your router or access point, if you like). Our test documents included a two-page Word document; a six-page PowerPoint presentation, including photos and colorful graphics; a two-page PDF with lots of fine print; and two photos, printed on both 4 x 6- and 8.5 x 11-inch photo paper.
Over Wi-Fi, it took 30 seconds to print the Word document; 3:01 to print the six-page PowerPoint document; and 54 seconds to print the PDF. It took an average of 1:26 and 2:35 to print 4 x 6 and 8.5 x 11-inch photos, respectively. Overall, the MX860 finished second to last among the five wireless all-in-ones we tested, with an average Wi-Fi printing time of 1:41 (compared with the 1:36 average).
As expected, these times improved when we printed the same documents via USB instead of Wi-Fi. These tests took 24 seconds (Word doc), 50 seconds (PDF file), and 2:48 (PowerPoint presentation), respectively, with an average print time of 1:09 for 4 x 6 prints and 2:19 for 8.5 x 11-inch photos. The average start time remained 5 seconds for documents and about 30 seconds for photos. The MX680's average USB printing time of 1:30 was slightly better than the 1:32 average, putting it in third place in this roundup for USB printing speeds. Both the Epson Workforce 600 and HP Officejet 6500 were significantly faster.
While the MX860's design and setup are rough around the edges compared to other $199 all-in-ones, its image quality trumps them all. Our 12-megapixel photos taken with our Nikon D90, which we printed on 8.5 x 11-inch photo paper, looked sharp and glossy; we wouldn't have hesitated to put one of these prints in a frame. While someone with a discerning eye might notice that the MX860's photos look oversaturated next to the ESP 7's (which are also lovely), we'd rather frame these punchier colors than the ESP 7's accurate, but flatter ones.
When presented with other tasks, too, the MX860 delivered consistently good image quality. Our black-and-white text documents never looked faded, and we were glad to see to that our color PowerPoint presentation, which includes plenty of graphics and pictures, appeared less streaky than other printers, particularly the Lexmark X7675. Finally, while not perfect, the fine print in a PDF document looked less smudgy than either the X7675 or even the Kodak ESP 7.
The printer's black ink costs $14.99 to refill ($41.99 if you buy a triple pack). Unlike other printers, such as the X7675, the MX860 has three individual colored inks (i.e. cyan, magenta, and yellow), which you replace separately as needed. They cost $12.99 apiece or you can buy them together for $47.99. That brings the cost per print to 19 cents for color prints and 5 cents for a black-and-white document.
In addition to printing, the MX860 copies and scans wirelessly (it faxes as well, but not wirelessly). The Lexmark X7675 can print, scan, and fax sans wires, while the Epson WorkForce 600 only prints, scans, and copies wirelessly. Like the WorkForce 600, it allows users remote access to memory cards that are stored in the printer.
Like other all-in-ones, the MX860 has a built-in duplexer for paper-saving, two-sided printing, and a scan resolution of 2400 x 4800 dpi. The copy machine has a standard reduction/magnification range of 25 to 400 percent. Its fax machine can store up to 100 speed dials, which is standard, but its limit of 250 incoming fax pages at a time is high. The paper tray stores 150 sheets, which is higher than the ESP 7 and Workforce 600's 100-sheet capacity, but smaller than the HP Officejet 6500's 250-sheet tray.
Software and Warranty
Using the bundled Canon Solutions software, you can do things such as scan or import photos, or print anything from single photos to albums to stickers. There's also a One-Click to Photo Print option, but it doesn't make the photo printing process any easier or faster than if you selected the standard photo printing option. In either case, you'll breeze through three screens: selecting the image, paper and print size, and layout. While the interface is cruder (think Windows Explorer menu trees) than Kodak's software, and also does not include editing features, it's still reliably easy to navigate. The printer has a one-year limited warranty.
If you can live with the Canon Pixma MX860's conservative, bulky design and slightly complicated setup, you'll find it offers decent document printing speeds over Wi-Fi, as well as the best quality of any $199 business all-in-one printer. Although we chose the Kodak ESP 7 as our Editors' Choice winner, thanks to its sleeker design, easier setup, and less expensive ink supplies, the MX860 remains a strong choice because of its image quality.